Last week a panel of local farmers spoke at a public event to educate people on the efforts underway within the agriculture community to work towards improving water quality within the state of Iowa. One of the most noted solutions towards that effort was including cover crops as a part of the yearly plan.
Some of the great benefits of cover crops have already been written about in this blog over the years - benefits such as increasing soil health by increased microbial action, and also the significant reduction of erosion. Another case for cover crops has to do with reducing nitrate run-off. The presence of cover crops means there are roots in the ground for almost the entire year. Instead of relying solely on roots from corn and soybeans, which are in the ground for about five months of the year, roots from cover crops such as rye, oats, or wheat, can fill in the remainder of the months.
At the local event, a slide was shared that shows the portion of the Gulf of Mexico where much of the aquatic life has died from excessive nitrates and phosphorous in the water. Iowa's goal is to cut nutrient run-off by 45%. That is an ambitious goal, but a noble one.
Nitrate run-off is a real problem that deserves attention. Agriculture is not the only culprit in the amount of nitrates finding their way to the Gulf of Mexico. But, it is exciting to see farmers participating in finding a solution to this serious problem. And, that one of their answers is cover crops is especially encouraging. The benefits of cover crops just keep growing. It is what is known as a "win-win-win."
Until next time,